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How to Compost Almost Any Food: Can I Compost Cheese?

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When it comes to composting, cheese can be a tricky ingredient to handle. It’s hard to know if you can compost cheese. Not every composting method is suitable for dairy products like cheese, and improper disposal can lead to unpleasant odors, unwanted pests, and potential health risks. However, with the right approach, composting cheese can be an eco-friendly solution to food waste. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best practices for composting cheese and discuss the various factors to consider.

​Can I Compost Cheese?

Contrary to traditional compost rules that tells you to avoid composting all animal products, you can indeed compost cheese. And other animal products!

Why? Because technically all organic waste (meaning all things that are alive or where once living) can be composted. Here’s where it gets tricky though. Just because a food breaks down and decomposes doesn’t mean it will make healthy soil for your plants or decompose in a way that doesn’t produce an unpleasant smell or attract animals. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn a little more about the decomposition process so you can figure out the best way to compost your moldy cheese. 

While cheesy compost isn’t the best soil amendment for your plants, composting cheese, dairy products, and other animal products is an effective way to keep food out of the landfill. After all, I think one thing that all environmentalists can agree on is that food does not belong in a landfill!

Understanding the Composting Process

Composting is a natural process of decomposition where organic materials, such as food scraps and yard waste, are broken down into nutrient-rich compost. The composting process relies on the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, which thrive under specific conditions.

In compost, you need to have the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. Scientists say the best ratio of carbon to nitrogen is 30:1. 

  • Carbon/ Brown materials:  It comes from dry stuff like leaves, straw, or newspaper. Carbon gives compost structure and helps it hold water.
  • Nitrogen/ Green materials: It comes from wet stuff like kitchen scraps (fruit and veggie leftovers, coffee grounds). Nitrogen provides the energy for the compost microbes to break everything down.

If the ratio is out of sync, the decomposition process slows down. It might get stinky or not break down properly. So, keeping the right balance helps to make finished compost that makes fantastic soil for plants.

​Cheese falls into the nitrogen/ green materials category which means that you need to make sure to have a proper amount of brown materials to compost it correctly. 

Want to learn more about composting? Check out my Beginners Guide to Compost here!

A picture of a hand with shredded cheese with text underneath that says can you compost cheese?

How to Compost Cheese:

  • Choose the Right Compost System: Not all compost systems are suitable for composting cheese. The best options include large-scale composting services, hot compost piles that generate high temperatures, or electric composters.
  • Avoid Worm Bins: Dairy products, including cheese, should never be fed to worms in vermicomposting bins, as they can’t process dairy waste effectively.
  • Moderation in Electric Composters: While electric composters can handle cheese in small quantities, moderation is key to prevent odor production and ensure proper decomposition. Always make sure to add brown materials to the composter to keep the compost ratio close to 30:1.
  • Monitor Moisture and Temperature: Cheese has a high moisture and fat content, which can disrupt the composting process. Ensure proper moisture levels and temperature control to prevent anaerobic conditions and unpleasant smells.
  • Balance Organic Materials: Mix cheese scraps with dry fibrous materials like dead leaves or paper products to maintain a proper balance of green and brown materials in your compost heap.
  • Limit Quantities: Composting cheese in limited quantities reduces the risk of odor production and potential issues with decomposition.

My electric composter is my personal favorite way to compost dairy products. Check out the best electric composters here.

Why do people avoid composting dairy?

Dairy waste, including cheese, poses several challenges in the composting process. Its high fat content can lead to slow decomposition and unpleasant odors if not managed properly. 

Moreover, cheese scraps may attract unwanted pests and create a fertile breeding ground for pathogens.  You certainly don’t want to mess around with unwanted pathogens in your garden. This can pose a health risk!  If you don’t have the proper systems for composting dairy such as hot composting, an electric composter, or a municipal compost program, you should probably just toss leftover cheese into the garbage can. 

Can I compost Vegan Cheese?

For those avoiding dairy products, vegan cheese can also be composted. Vegan cheese typically lacks the high fat content found in traditional cheese, making it easier to compost without compromising the composting process. Just check the ingredients. If your vegan cream cheese has a lot of oil products in it, you might want to skip the compost bin. Once again, high levels of fat can make it difficult to break down. 

Graphic with picture of cheese and text that says how to compost cheese

Conclusion

Composting cheese can be a sustainable kitchen practice when done correctly. By following best practices and choosing the appropriate composting method, you can turn cheese scraps into nutrient-rich soil for your garden while reducing food waste and supporting a healthier environment.

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